Aiming for a bigger share of the crossover pie
Red-hot crossover sales have inspired automakers to quickly fill every gap imaginable, even if it means chopping up an existing model. Enter the 2019 Honda Passport. The Passport, originally a rebadged Isuzu Rodeo, has evolved from body-on-frame SUV to a modern unibody crossover based on the three-row Pilot. On paper, creating a five-seat version of the Pilot gives Honda loyalists and potential new owners another midsize, five-seat option when the surprisingly spacious CR-V isn’t big enough. With a solid foundation, is the more rugged and half-foot-shorter Passport as good as its larger sibling? Let’s find out.
When I first saw the 2019 Honda Passport, I immediately noticed the crossover’s resemblance to Pilot—it almost looks like Honda just chopped off a good chunk of the Pilot’s rear. Other than its shorter length and raised suspension, subtle exterior styling tweaks as well as standard 20-inch wheels and black exterior trim distinguish the 2019 Passport from the Pilot. With its generous cargo capacity and multitude of storage bins, the Passport retains its big brother’s sensibilities. “It’s a diaper bag with ground clearance,” features editor Scott Evans said. “It has a feature of some kind for everything you can think of.” Passenger space is abundant up front, and although we appreciate the rear seat’s ability to recline and slide, we could use even more head- and legroom.
Honda’s new multimedia system is an improvement over its predecessor; however, it has some annoying quirks that a volume knob and a responsive 8.0-inch touchscreen on most grades can’t fix. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay get overwhelmed if you ask too much, causing the system to freeze, and the tiles on the main menu look the same. The Garmin-supplied navigation app lacks the comprehensiveness of Google Maps and doesn’t suggest quicker routes to your destination. Touring and Elite trims come with a 550-watt, 10-speaker audio system that’s clear but is short on range and has a little too much bass when you crank up the volume.
On the road, the 2019 Passport drives as big as the larger vehicle it’s based on. With a raised suspension and standard 20-inch alloy wheels, the steering feels disconnected and body control is sloppy; there are secondary vertical motions over big bumps and excessive roll through turns and sweepers at highway speeds. “I’m not impressed with the ride,” features editor Christian Seabaugh said. “It’s not as well damped as the Pilot or Ridgeline.”
At the track, the 2019 Passport finished our figure-eight course in 28.1 seconds with a 0.62 g average and generated 0.79 g on the skidpad. Testing director Kim Reynolds thought the Passport could be more responsive and found that the undefeatable stability control cuts power in half during hard cornering.
With abundant power from the 3.5-liter naturally aspirated V-6, the 2019 Passport hit 60 mph in 6.2 seconds and the quarter mile in 14.7 seconds at 94 mph (151 km/h). Credit for its strong straight-line performance goes to the crossover’s ability to launch hard, road test editor Chris Walton said. Unfortunately, the ZF-sourced nine-speed automatic is the Passport’s Achilles’ heel; it shifts harshly, it’s stingy with downshifts outside of Sport mode, and it spends half the time confused in heavy traffic.
“It’s incredibly lazy,” Seabaugh said. “I don’t think it’s a V-6 issue; the blame seems to solely lie with the transmission. Passing maneuvers don’t necessarily take planning, but they’re on the cusp. It takes a solid three- or four-Mississippi for a downshift a highway speeds.” Stopping from 60 mph took 130 feet, 5 and 14 feet longer than the last Subaru Outback and Hyundai Santa Fe we tested, respectively. Even a 2019 Pilot we recently evaluated stopped 10 feet shorter than the Passport. Walton observed some nose dive during hard stops, but the brake pedal remained firm.
All 2019 Passports come standard with the Honda Sensing driver assistance suite, which operates invisibly even in the most aggressive setting. The adaptive cruise control system leaves the ideal amount of room between you and the car in front even in its closest setting. With lane centering on, the Passport can take gentle curves and effortlessly stays within its lane at highway speeds.
Bringing back the Passport to slot between the CR-V and Pilot is a smart move because Honda now has all crossover sizes covered. Regrettably, sawing off the Pilot’s rear end and raising the suspension slightly results in a supremely practical but flawed vehicle. Honda’s interior packaging ingenuity is there, but the road manners aren’t sorted despite being based on a model that’s one of the most well-rounded three-row family haulers currently available. These shortcomings aside, the 2019 Honda Passport will likely be a hot seller as consumers continue to snap up utility vehicles in droves.
|2019 Honda Passport Elite AWD|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$44,725|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||3.5L/280-hp/262-lb-ft SOHC 24-valve V-6|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||4,186 lb (58/42%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||190.5 x 78.6 x 72.2 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.2 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||14.7 sec @ 94.0 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||130 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.79 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||28.1 sec @ 0.62 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||19/24/21 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||177/140 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.93 lb/mile|